This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/19/2007
A - Amaker, Tommy. The Coach K protégé is out at Michigan. Thank god. Maybe that finally means that my team will play in a style that isn't completely and utterly embarrassing. Provided they make a good hire, the easy betting assumptions we've made about the Wolverines the last few years will have to be thrown out.
B - Big Ten. We learned something about this conference - it is good, but not really good. They won five of their six games in the first round, and they covered all six. The weekend wasn't nearly as kind. Only Ohio State survived, and that was by the narrowest of margins, and just two of the losers covered. It looks like there will be at least three new coaches in the conference next year - they have their work cut out for them.
C - Curlin. If you like the Derby and you haven't heard this name yet, then remember it now. The horse is incredibly green, but he won the Rebel Stakes in impressive fashion this weekend after completely crushing an allowance field last time out. There is a lot of ground to cover before the first Saturday in May, but this horse gives me shivers.
D - Defense. I like good, disciplined defense as much as the next guy, but that UCLA-Indiana game tested the bounds of what's acceptable. When two teams can't shoot or score it certainly doesn't make the minutes fly by. Turns out that a game needs more than 100 points to be exciting. Old Dominion and Butler wasn't any better, either.
E - Empathy. I feel worse for Justin Cage, Xavier's senior forward, than I do for anyone on the planet right now. At the end of a game in which he was an absolute monster he had a shot at immortality. All he had to do was hit two free throws and his team beat Ohio State. He missed the second one, his teammates somehow forgot to defend the three, Ohio State tied it up, and they ran away with it in overtime. What a terrible way to end a basketball career.
F - Floyd, Tim. The USC coach deserves some credit that I, for one, wasn't expecting to have to give him. His team's two impressive wins, including the total dismantling of Texas, have forced me and many others to re-evaluate my opinion of the team, and of the general strength of the Pac-10. How did a team that looks this good get beaten so badly by Oregon 10 days ago?
G - Georgetown. Hoyas fans have to feel pretty good right now. The team's physicality has been way too much for opponents. They are clicking on all cylinders and they play a Vanderbilt team that they beat by 16 earlier this year. So far they are living up to their own hype.
H - Higher seeds. Want a brainless and wildly profitable betting strategy? For the first round it was simple - bet the team in the white jerseys. The higher seeded team covered in 23 of the 36 games, and two were a push, so you could have won 68 percent of your bets without using a single brain cell. The same thing didn't hold on the weekend, though - 60 percent of the lower seeds covered.
I - Idiots. Alan Branch is the latest player to show up at his Pro Day in less than stellar shape. What are these guys thinking? Their only job between the end of the season and the draft is to work out and stay in shape. Isn't a few million dollars incentive enough to pump some iron and run a few miles? I'd do it for much less than that.
J - Jimmie Johnson. You either love Johnson or you hate him, but you can't deny that he is hot. His car was clearly the fastest at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and a hard charge late in the race on Sunday was enough to get him past Tony Stewart and earn him his second straight win. The defending champ is in good position to repeat if he keeps this up.
K - Kevin Durant. What an odd tournament he had. He looked largely invisible and ineffective, but then you looked at the box score and saw he had 57 points in two games. His apology for not playing hard enough this year was odd, but I can't wait to see what this guy can do in the big time. He's so good it's mind-numbing.
L - Lakers. I can imagine what Phil Jackson's playbook looks like these days. Every play is some variation of - pass it to Kobe, shoot. It's not pretty, and not sustainable over the long term, but at least the Lakers are finally winning. Now if only they could figure out a way to cover a spread once in a while.
M - Memphis. The Tigers have proven in their first two games, and especially in the dismantling of Nevada, that they are for real. It's scary, though, that Chris Douglas-Roberts limped off the court with a sprained ankle in the second half and didn't return. Acie Law will destroy Memphis single-handedly if that ankle doesn't heal.
N - Nets. New Jersey needed to turn their game around if they wanted to maintain their playoff spot, and they have. They've won three of their last four, and they have covered in each win. The most impressive part was that the first two wins came at the end of a six-game road trip that hadn't been kind to that point.
O - Oden, Greg. What was the big guy thinking on Saturday? He got himself in foul trouble early, couldn't hit a shot if his life depended on it and then he lost his mind with a classless shove when he fouled out (where in the world was the intentional foul call?). Unimpressive performance, but the plus side is at least we learned that Ohio State can still win against a decent game without him near his best.
P - Pittsburgh. The Panthers look as bad as a Sweet 16 team can look. They were very lucky to escape with a win against VCU after a completely incredible and incomprehensible 19-point collapse down the stretch. Thankfully for them, UCLA has looked almost as flat and uninspiring over the last two weeks or so.
Q - Questions. This relatively clean and chalky tournament so far has been fun to watch, but it sure hasn't answered many questions. How can we have any more idea now about who can legitimately win it all than we did a week ago? The title picture is completely murky still, and I suspect it could stay that way right up to the Final Four.
R - Roy, Brandon. It seems fitting that a guy who was so good at the NCAA tournament last year is really coming into his own in the NBA as the tournament rolls around this year. He's had at least 14 points every game in March. For the most part he's shooting well, and he's swallowing minutes. He'd be even better if he was on a team that actually gave him some help instead of the Blazers.
S - Street Sense. Last year's juvenile champion made his first start of the year en route to a Derby start. As he did in the Breeders' Cup last year, he got a perfect trip and found room to run along the rail. His move was enough to beat favorite Any Given Saturday by about two nose hairs. Maybe the juvenile jinx can finally be broken.
T - Tiger Woods. Turns out he's mortal after all. The world's greatest golfer shot a six-over 76 in the final round on Sunday, including a stretch that even I could do - a bogey, double bogey, triple bogey finish. This means that at least someone else got to win for once, but it was Vijay Singh, so the tournament still didn't provide much value for bettors.
U - UNLV. They're in the Sweet 16, and it is no fluke. The only game they haven't covered in the last nine was a win on Senior Night at New Mexico in February. Point guard Kevin Kruger is much better than his numbers, and he has a real chance to lead his boys past Oregon.
V - Volunteers. Tennessee is an intriguing team. We saw on Thursday what the offense is capable of when it is clicking. On Saturday we saw what can happen when a team relies so heavily on offense, though. Chris Lofton was ice cold, and the team could really have been in trouble if Virginia's Sean Singleton had been able to find the hoop himself.
W - Wow. If you didn't enjoy the day of basketball on Saturday then you obviously aren't a basketball fan. You may even want to consider giving up on sports completely, because you obviously can't enjoy life. Every one of those games was riveting and thrilling in their own way. That's why this is the best time of the year.
X - Xavier. Oh, dear, sweet Xavier. One huge, impressive tournament win, and one lousy free throw away from a second win that would have rocked the state of Ohio to its foundations. The team did us very proud as our mascots this year, and next year will only be better - unless coach Sean Miller bolts to greener pastures, that is.
Y - Yawn. Formula One started this weekend. The handicapping is really tough. For the last decade, Michael Schumacher won pretty much whenever he wanted to. He retired last year, Kimi Raikkonen filled his seat in the lead Ferrari car and he won the race with incredible ease. How is F1 so popular worldwide when it is so darned boring?
Z - Zombie basketball. Is it just me, or does watching Florida play in the tournament remind you of the undead? They are playing fine, but they don't seem to have any passion or a killer instinct or anything that you would want to see from a team that is obviously built to defend. They are still likely the favorites, but I will feel better for their chances if I see a more life-like performance against Butler.